As we face into the second week of Wimbledon, there have, as of Monday morning, been no real upsets in the men’s draw, certainly not of the same scale as the French Open. Therefore it is probably time to access the competition and consider who will be champion come Sunday evening. Of course, if Nadal was not injured, we would all be gearing up for a replay of last year’s final, at least those of us not consumed by Andy Murray-itis.
The first contenter, Andy Roddick is seeded 6th and despite the two other seeds in his draw will probably fear Lleyton Hewitt most of all in his run to the quarter finals. Hewitt has nothing to lose and has won his first three rounds in straight sets, unlike Roddick. The Australian’s win against Del Potro has undoubtedly boosted his confidence however Roddick has beaten Hewitt in their last four encounters. The American will surely see the absence of Nadal as an opportunity to regain the position he held in 2004 and 2005, as the opponent of Federer in the final.
The next contender in the draw is Andy Murray, the 3rd seed. After his win at Queens he will be certain he can do the same at Wimbledon. However, if he sees just a fraction of the media coverage which his progress is attracting, he will need some big shoulders to carry the sense of expectation on. While the hype and attention actually helped Tim Henman, mainly because the BBC et al knew that he would not win the competition but that every step he progressed was an achievement, as Andy Murray plays each match the attention turns towards the next one immediately. At least one British paper last week printed out the list of players they expect Murray to meet, up to and including Roger Federer in the final, and how he will beat them. This pressure will certainly take its toll. Wimbledon is a tournament where experience counts for a lot more than current form so his single Grand Slam final is unlikely to prepare him for the week ahead.
On the other side of the draw is Novak Djokovic, one of the select few who have managed to win a Grand Slam title in this Federer/Nadal dominated era, a title which he earned by beating Roger Federer in the semi-final of the Australian Open. Djokovic will fancy his chances but has not, as of yet, reached his full potential at Wimbledon, he has only played four previous tournaments and had to retire due to injury in 2007. With a possible semi-final encounter against Federer it is unlikely the 4th seed will reach the final, this year at least.
Thus we are left with said Roger Federer, the 2nd seed, but by default, the highest ranking player. While he always wears his emotions on his sleeves, in the literal sense of tears on his Nike polo shirts sometimes, his relief at the French Open final was obvious. The mental hurdle of equalling the record of 14 Grand Slam victories had been overcome. The 13th and 14th had proven hard to come by, with plenty of tough matches in the French Open despite Nadal’s early exit. A huge amount of pressure has been lifted from Federer and while there will always be a sense of expectancy on him to do well at Wimbledon, he has proven, four times in fact, that he can come back and reclaim his title. Roger made his disappointment at Nadal’s absence at Wimbledon this year clear but that will not stop him taking full advantage of the situation and, in my opinion, taking the title.